Sixty for 60: 12. The Helicopter Of The Holy Ghost

To celebrate my 60th birthday, I asked my social media friends to nominate a favourite song from 2021 – 60 to commemorate the fact I am 60.

Today. Wait. Today, I am breaking my own rules once more. This recommendation is my own: yesterday, my dear friend Crayola Lectern passed along a beautifully-packaged slab of clear 8″ vinyl to me, with a gorgeous painting of a many-coloured parrot on its front cover. Now, I can only play 8″ on my straight-to-MP3 record player, sounded out through mono speakers, so… (Wait. I have some stereo speakers now. Whatever.) So, I did the sensible thing. And read the (physical, hand-typed) press release for The Helicopter Of The Holy Ghost‘s brand-new (released May 20) 8″ single, Slow Down c/w Not The End Of. Found the link to the website with the lashings of charm and information.

And I quote:

The Helicopter of The Holy Ghost are Billy Reeves, Crayola Lectern, Mark Morriss and, on guitar, Mark Peters. To to buy our eight inch single please join our socials: insta /thehothg – fb / thehothg – twitter /helicopterholy where, on May 21st the store URL will appear at 9am. as the record is very limited. It will also be released on May 21st on all streaming platforms and iTunes.

Billy Reeves formed theaudience for a bet, fortunately meeting the fabulous Sophie Ellis-Bextor two days later at The Garage, Islington. (He won the bet seven months later). The band reached the dizzy heights of 12 in the LP charts. In 2000 he signed to Sony with the group ‘Yours’ but this project was violently curtailed by joy-riders that hit his Morris Minor at 99 mph (on the way home from promoting the first ever gig by the popular heavy metal band, The Darkness). A long coma, many operations and a housebound year ensued. In 2017 his brother gave him two mini-discs that had been saved from the wreckage, including demos of songs he had forgotten – due to crash-related amnesia. These songs were recently moulded into an album, ‘Afters’ by Reeves, Mark Morriss, (solo artist and singer with the chart-topping guitar-janglers The Bluetones), Mark Peters (of Engineers – Rough Trade included his solo LP ‘Innerland’ in their best albums list of 2018), and Crayola Lectern (from Crayola Lectern/Zofff/la Momo/Departure Lounge and Damo Suzuki’s band up the Con Club in Lewes). ​

What are these songs about? No-one knows. They are, however, very pretty.

I need to insert myself back into this dialogue here and point out two things: first, I was the person on the other end of that bet (the losing side). Second, earlier that day I was shown the exact spot (in “boring” Goring) where the video to the original version of ‘Slow Down’ was filmed. (Coincidence? I think not.) I already love this song – as indicated when I first wrote the following several years ago while living in Brisbane.

I know and I love this song so well, though – ever since I saw him perform it on a grand piano in the Quakers Meeting Hall in Brighton a few years back. Or perhaps it was in his and Sadie’s flat in Worthing. (I say a few years. It has to be over six, because that’s how long I’ve been living here in Brisbane. This video was released 18 months ago. So long ago, I’ve seen Chris perform with Crayola Lectern on a beach in Worthing since then. On pebbles, and with random revellers snared in and entranced by the hypnotic loveliness of the Lectern keyboards.) I know what the song is about, loosely: he’s told me. So I’m not going to tell you. Interpretation, remember? Always leave it up to the listener. It’s haunting, mournful, beautiful. It’s like something drawn from that wonderful 1974 album Rock Bottom, but I don’t mean that to sound like it’s copyist. It ain’t. It’s so fucking good, it should be closing out the end credits of three dozen TV serials about surrealist loneliness and isolation and long-distance worry.  Such a graceful way of making the silence linger. Such a beautiful sonorous trumpet. Such a lovely dance. Such wonderful double-layering of the vocal line. Makes me miss my dear friend’s companionship and caring so much.

(My eyes are closed right now, enjoying the music. I cannot see the keyboard for my two-fingered type. I just love being able to lose myself; in the process like this.)

So now there is a new version of the song out, vocals from the singer with my former Britpop sweethearts The Bluetones, car crashes and bets and love included, new video with some fetching stop-motion line animation, and a beautiful painting of a parrot. Damn, I feel spoiled today. And now I wonder what the song is about, bearing in mind all this back story and added connotations. (Have I mentioned that trumpet… oh my God. Trumpet to die for. Not literally. Please, not literally.) This is as gorgeous as your arse is flatulent. No. This. This is as gorgeous as Sophie Dahl waltzing through fields of ballet dancing men, as melancholy as spending your entire life never listening to Robert Wyatt, as evocative and poignant as a child kicking a stone alone on the way home, as refreshing as Spring Rain. As gorgeous as the arse of Donald Trump is flatulent. Oh god. No. This. This is succour and beauty and redemption and pain and laughter. This is…

Slow down lad. Please, slow down.

Treat yourself. Go to their website, and order yourself a slice of… oh god. I don’t know. Poignancy. Poetry. Love.

Name from a Microdisney song, I assume.